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iPhone 4: The Forbidden Grip

Steve Jobs wants to keep you happy by giving you a free case for his company's defective iPhone 4.  (Source: ArsTechnica)
"Phones aren't perfect" -- Steve Jobs

Today at Apple's 1 p.m. EST, 10 a.m. PST press conference, Apple finally formally addressed the iPhone 4's faulty antenna, which its engineers reportedly warned it about last year, but it ignored.  Despite reports claiming that it might initiate a recall, Apple took a hard line, with most of its presentation boiling down to one word -- denial.  But to Apple's credit it is giving users a free bumper case and letting them return their phones for free within 30 days if they're still unhappy.

Apple CEO Steven P. Jobs who infamously told users "You're holding it wrong" took the stage and began by stating, "We're not perfectPhones aren't perfect either... But we want to make all of our users happy.  We love making our users happy.  We're going to talk about how we're going to do that today... but before we get into that I want to talk about the problems and the data we've got so that we can make sure we make all our users happy."

Jobs then turned to a bit of bragging -- a record 3 million iPhone 4s sold in only 3 weeks.  He described it as the best smart phone in history, saying reviews back him up on that.

He then commented, "We started getting some reports of people having issues with the antenna system..People were touching this spot here.  Seeing a large drop in bars... sicne dubbed Antennagate.  We heard about this just 22 days ago from today. It's not like Apple's had its head in the sand for 3 months on this... Apple is an engineering driven company."

He then turned to tests which Apple engineers conducted.  He claims those tests show similar drops in signal, based on hand grip with a Blackberry, the HTC Droid Eris, and the Samsung Omnia 2.  Jobs' conclusion?  "This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren't perfect."

Of course Jobs failed to show a wide variety of smart phones -- such as the HTC EVO 4G, Droid Incredible, etc.

He again reaffirms his stance that users need to be sure to have the correct grip and that the problem is mostly imagined stating, "We went to a lot of trouble to put this beautiful line in the stainless steel to say here's where you touch it everybody... and we had incorrect bars, so when it did drop the drop looked far more catastrophic."

Apple says that its testing to come to this conclusion was extensive.  It spent $100M USD on its signal testing facility, complete with anechoic chambers.  It has hired 18 PhD scientist and engineers (though earlier reports indicate it perhaps wasn't listening to them).

In his presentation, Jobs cites AppleCare numbers which he claims indicate that only 0.55 percent of customers had enough of an issue to contact Apple.  Further, he says that return rates on the iPhone 4 are a miniscule 1.7 percent down from 6 percent (granted maybe some customers were waiting for Apple's response).

Jobs did admit that the iPhone 4 drops more calls that the iPhone 3GS, but claims that it only drops 1 more call per 100 calls than the 3GS hardware -- in other words less than a 1 percent difference.  He claims his inbox has been overflowing with emails telling him how wonderfully the iPhone 4 is working and how great it is.  In fact he claims he received 5,000 such emails.

He concludes by summarizing about the cosmetic "fix" to the number of bars drawn.  And then finally, he tosses customers a bone.  Apple will be giving out a free cases (Apple's own $30 USD newly designed case which reportedly fixes much of the signal problems or similar third party designs).  Until Sept. 30 Apple will give one of the cases to every iPhone 4 purchaser for free.  Customers who already bought a case will be refunded.  And international customers will be eligible for the offer as well.

The proximity sensor issue was also briefly mentioned, and chief Jobs says a software fix is incoming.  He also reminded that the white iPhone 4 will arrive at the end of July and that the iPhone 4 will launch in 17 countries on July 30th, as well.

The conference wraps up with Jobs commenting, "We love our users.  We try very hard to surprise and delight them.. we work our asses off and we have a blast doing it.  What motivates us is to have them love our products.  We also connect them with great apps and content.  We love our users so much we've built 300 apple retail stores for them.  When we fall short we try harder."

"And when we succeed they reward us by staying our users... so that's what drives us. And when we have problems like this and people are criticizing us, we take it really personally. Maybe we shouldn't, but we do.  We all read these stories and we take it seriously.  We think we've gotten to the heart of the problem, and the heart is that smartphones have weak spots. And so for those small number of customers that are having problems, we're going to give them cases, and for those that are still unhappy we're going to give them a full refund.   But the data supports the fact that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone in the world, and that there is no antennagateAnd that's what I had to present to you today."

A class action lawsuit on the problems is pending.

All Mr. Jobs' quotes were taken from this live feed from the company's press conference.

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Was called
By dflynchimp on 7/16/2010 2:02:51 PM , Rating: 4
Quote Shatbot:
It's obvious - on Friday Steve is going to say they had some unexpected problems with the antenna in a small amount of phones, and that the bar system will be made more accurate. Then if you take your iPhone 4 with receipt into any Apple store you'll get a free bumper. If not I'll eat my hat. He'll look the hero, and everyone will be so stoked about how good Apple is at looking after their customers. If anyone goes to the conference can someone PLEASE yell out about the hacked iTunes accounts? The annoying this is he also gets to use it as another advert. Bastard.

man it's like we DT commenters can do some majr forecasting haha.

RE: Was called
By stimudent on 7/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: Was called
By dflynchimp on 7/16/2010 2:08:26 PM , Rating: 1
if you read the article you'd know they ARE offering said refund if you ask for it.

Of course id doesn't excuse Apple from its moronic backtracking and self-righteous denial of the initial problem before escalation.

RE: Was called
By quiksilvr on 7/16/2010 2:25:25 PM , Rating: 5
That's what made the media go nuts. It wasn't the problem, it was how they responded to it.

Why didn't they just say this:
"We are aware of the problem concerning iPhone 4's antenna. As of now, we are working on a possible software fix. If the problem cannot be fixed via a software solution, we will then focus on a hardware solution for our current and future iPhone 4 customers. All was ask for is some patience until we can figure out the best solution to this problem. Thank you."

AND THEN THE MEDIA WOULD STFU. But NOOOOOOOOOO! You had to take the circle jerk route:
1) Youtube video showing a fanboy telling how awesome we are and how much we have Gizmodo!
2) Our phone is the best.
3) Only 1/2 a percent have a problem.
4) Other smartphones have the problem too.
5) We love our users. We try very hard to surprise & delight them. We love our users. Macs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, App Store,...We love our users. We connect them with great Apps and content. We love our users. They reward us by staying our users...creepy much?

RE: Was called
By Dorkyman on 7/16/2010 9:37:19 PM , Rating: 3
This conference will be discussed for years as an example of what NOT to do when a product defect is discovered.

As an aside, it didn't take long for the long knives to come out. Here's a bit of commentary about Nokia's response today:

"...Nokia's looking to ride the mojo of any negative fallout from today's Apple press conference, slipping out a rather fascinating statement this afternoon. The gist of it is that Espoo's keen on letting everyone know how much blood, sweat, and tears they've poured into perfecting their antenna design strategy over the years, going so far as to say that they "prioritize" it over the physical design of the phone if they need to in order to optimize its call performance -- an opinion moderately different from the "we want to have our cake and eat it too" philosophy espoused by Jobs today. In closing, Nokia acknowledges that a "tight grip" can mess with the performance, though they say they've done a bunch of research on the ways their phones are typically held so that the antennas are placed optimally..."

RE: Was called
By mstrmac on 7/17/10, Rating: -1
RE: Was called
By Proxes on 7/16/2010 2:18:56 PM , Rating: 3
They're not giving bumpers they are giving free cases.

RE: Was called
By aharris on 7/16/2010 2:28:22 PM , Rating: 4
Only because they said they don't have the capacity to produce the bumpers quickly enough.

They're using a 3rd party (likely one of the usual vendors) to produce cases for the phone, will provide a portal on their website where you can select which case you want and order it free of charge (not sure on shipping?) beggining late next week.

They're also refunding the cost of any bumpers and/or cases users have purchased (or will purchase), and that stipulation may continue until September 30th.

RE: Was called
By bfellow on 7/16/2010 3:20:31 PM , Rating: 5
The phone's fine but have a free case and we'll fix that proximity sensor bug. It drops more calls than the 3GS but the antenna is better!

RE: Was called
By Proxes on 7/16/2010 3:28:54 PM , Rating: 5
Kinda makes you wonder about all those years of people blaming AT&T for dropping calls and it's been the phones all this time!

RE: Was called
By qkool on 7/16/2010 11:58:18 PM , Rating: 2
Has AT&T said anything about this, or are they still soaking the blame?

RE: Was called
By dark matter on 7/17/2010 11:30:31 AM , Rating: 2
If you have problem with iPhone, you are the problem.

The glorious iPhone. Long live the iPhone. Viva la iPhone.

It's worth starting a revolution over.

RE: Was called
By icanhascpu on 7/18/2010 4:09:53 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah the iPhone 4 drops 100% MORE calls than the 3GS!

Nevermind that its 2 in 100 vs 1 in 100.

RE: Was called
By Shatbot on 7/16/2010 3:47:33 PM , Rating: 5
Well I'm happy: I like my hat.

RE: Was called
By Anoxanmore on 7/16/2010 4:49:48 PM , Rating: 5
See you need a modified princess bride quote now:

So without further ado!

The Consumer: That Stevie, he can *fuss*.
AT&T: Fuss, fuss... I think he like to scream at *us*.
The Consumer: Probably he means no *harm*.
AT&T: He's really very short on *charm*.
The Consumer: You have a great gift for rhyme.
AT&T: Yes, yes, some of the time.
Stevie: Enough of that.
The Consumer: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
FAT&T: If there are, we all be dead.
Stevie: No more rhymes now, I mean it.
AT&T: Anybody want a peanut?

RE: Was called
By pwndcake on 7/16/2010 10:49:06 PM , Rating: 5
Steve: It's magical!
Consumer: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

RE: Was called
By NanoTube1 on 7/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: Was called
By alifbaa on 7/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: Was called
By NanoTube1 on 7/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: Was called
By priusone on 7/17/2010 3:40:37 AM , Rating: 2
Patent trolls and Apple. Those are the only two types of drama that I allow into my life. Patent trolls are allowed to do their thing thanks to government regulations. I have lefty acquaintances who have Apple products, so stuff like this just adds fuel to a well lit fire. And as an avid camper, I make sure that the fire stays hot.

RE: Was called
By Senju on 7/20/2010 12:33:51 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree!
If you put your iphone in a Microwave and then complain you are not getting signals, are you really going to blame Apple?
People need to take more responsibility on how they use products. With some command sense, I believe you can avoid such drop calls.
<Is there room for me to get into the bunker too?>

RE: Was called
By xaders on 7/16/2010 7:12:24 PM , Rating: 4
deep down, steve jobs blame the mass media. iphone 4 has no problem judging by most of the presentation. 5,000 customers email saying it is the greatest phone ever & probably (0.55 % of 3 million customers) is 16,500 customers email that they had antenna issue.

in the end, it is not a recalled & apple answer iphone criticism

RE: Was called
By Broken on 7/17/2010 12:03:59 AM , Rating: 2
What I find funny, I have never noticed any reception problem by holding any of my smartphones I have had on AT&T, AT&T branded or imported. And yes I have had an iPhone and I have had many WM and Android phones. Guess my area has awesome coverage....

Nah, Jobs is just douche.

RE: Was called
By Alexvrb on 7/18/2010 2:40:06 PM , Rating: 2
I've got an Omnia 2 that say's he's full of crap. I can hold it any way I want, and the signal is fine.

RE: Was called
By callmeroy on 7/20/2010 10:28:51 AM , Rating: 2
I have a Samsung touch screen phone (the model number is under the battery cover and I'm too lazy to get it to check right now) ...doesn't matter how i grip the phone works fine with the same high signal strength either way.

I don't know if my phone is really a "smart phone" though...I can watch video, surf the web, send email and there are some games and basic apps like calendar, calculator, etc. but that's about it.

Either way its mind boggling to me that you drop hundreds on a new phone and the company that makes says you have to hold it a certain way or else -- essentially it doesn't work right...

RE: Was called
By Newspapercrane on 7/17/2010 12:32:21 AM , Rating: 5
Jobs said that 0.55 percent of users have called about antenna/reception issues... There would have been more, but they couldn't get enough bars. :D

RE: Was called
By Azure Sky on 7/20/2010 12:17:04 PM , Rating: 1

I gave up my votes on this topic just to say this needs a +6!!!!

RE: Was called
By jonup on 7/20/2010 2:43:06 PM , Rating: 2

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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